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“For 18 years I have been a citizen of the world”

Published 3.4.2024

Chemical engineer Karina Martínez Pérez has taken part in a dozen challenging projects in Techint, which have been the source of great personal satisfaction. The most recent one was the Dos Bocas Refinery.


Born into a family of doctors, Karina Martínez Pérez, Commissioning & Start-Up Manager at three of the plants at the Dos Bocas Refinery, broke with family tradition to become a Chemical Engineer. She graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and today is passionate about engineering and construction projects.

Although originally from Mexico City, she maintains that for the last 18 years, she’s been “a citizen of the world,” because she’s moved around so much to work at different projects. Currently, she’s in charge of the start-up process at the Sour Water Stripper, the Amine Regeneration Unit and the Effluent Treatment plant in Dos Bocas, Tabasco.

Why were you interested in studying Chemical Engineering?

I come from a family of doctors and I inherited a great interest in chemistry. Initially, I actually wanted to be a chemist, but when I started to study, I realized that I was much more interested in what Chemical Engineers do to meet the needs of humanity by focusing on processes.

When I finished my degree, I looked around for an area where I could help make the world a better place, which is why I studied for a master's degree in Environmental Engineering. After that, I needed somewhere to do my internship, which is when I came across Techint Engineering & Construction. That's where my story as a process engineer began.

What has your career been like in the company?

Initially, I was hired on a three-month trial basis and, when that period was about to end, my boss told me I had the potential to join the Young Professionals (JP) program. So, those three months became 18 years of experience!

First, I worked in Engineering, which was extremely interesting as that’s where you identify and define improvements for different processes. I started with the Tamazunchale gas pipeline project and then I moved to the Querétaro bypass project.

At that time, the company was working on several different gas pipeline projects and I was invited to participate in a multi-pipeline initiative in Costa Rica called Recope, where we did everything from design to commissioning together with the customer. When this project was completed, I returned to Mexico to take part in the Nitrogen Elimination Plant project, followed by the CCE Pacifico Coal Power Plant.

Later, I returned to the world of gas pipelines with the Tuxpan Compression Station, Etanoducto and the Naranjos Compression Station. After that, I worked on several tenders. Then I went to the Compression Station in Altamira, and then to the Norte III Thermoelectric Power Plant until January 2023, when I started at the Dos Bocas Refinery.

How has your career evolved in these 18 years?

I started in Engineering, where you work on the foundations of a project, and then as I got involved in other stages, my enthusiasm grew. When I was invited to join the mechanical completion stage, it was quite a challenge, because you have to validate what’s been built. Then I continued with the pre-commissioning, which is still a challenge because you have to start the equipment up and try it out, although with no fluids in the system.

During the commissioning, the stakes are much higher, and I discovered that, as you get closer to the start-up phase, the risks pile up, pretty much in tandem with the peak of the adrenaline of those involved!

For me, seeing how everything evolves from the moment a project is born to “turning on the switch” for everything to start working as planned, is what I find the most exciting. Making all the gears move together is incredibly satisfying.

It really fills me with happiness to see all the stages of a project, and what I enjoy most about my career at Techint E&C is having the opportunity to participate in all the phases from mechanical completion to commissioning, because this process involves so many different risks and challenges—but also many satisfactions.

What do you consider to have been the most challenging project?

Each project comes with its own raft of challenges to be overcome, and that’s why I’ve stayed with the company for 18 years, because there’s always something new to learn. The learning process is constant, you keep moving forward, finding solutions and different ways of staying ahead of the curve.

In addition, I’ve found a great family here, with solid support from all employees, and that means we always get good results. Our customers are satisfied and happy with the work done by the group. Teamwork is the best recipe for achieving this goal successfully.

What would you say to new generations of women interested in developing a career in engineering?

I’d tell them that this career brings great challenges and great satisfactions! It's not easy, every day there are new issues to be solved, but it’s that dynamism that is so invigorating!

I’d tell them not to be afraid to tackle these challenges, that being a woman should not be a limitation or a barrier to being able to work in the industry. If this is your passion and you truly have a taste for it, then there’s a broad path of different opportunities to tackle in engineering and industry. So there’s no time to waste!

When I started, I was practically the only woman in Operations in my sector, but I have never really felt treated any different. In all the positions I’ve held, both my bosses and my colleagues have been very respectful, and there’ve been no limits to growth. On the contrary, it gives me great satisfaction to know that people recognize me and value my work.

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